Ashton Creek residents are experiencing an emotional rollercoaster after learning the heart of their community will cease to exist.
North Okanagan-Shuswap trustees voted Tuesday to permanently shut down Ashton Creek Elementary because of low enrolment.
“They cried at first. We shed some tears,” said Diane Minaker of her two children who attend the school.
“But I told them there are things they can do at M.V. Beattie (in Enderby) and they will enjoy it.”
Parent Crystal Cunningham had presented a 159-petition urging that the school remain open.
“It’s disappointing they didn’t listen to the community,” she said, adding that closure could force families to leave Ashton Creek or not move there.
“I don’t know what will happen to the store, the community hall or the church that uses the school.”
The school has 33 students in two, four-grade split classrooms and the district expects that number would decrease further next year.
Parents say the smaller atmosphere has allowed for more one-on-one learning and the children establishing strong relationships. There is a concern that may be lost in a larger school.
Busing is also a concern because while Enderby is 10 kilometres away from Ashton Creek school, many students are another 20 to 25 kilometres away at Kingfisher. Others live in the Trinity Valley.
“The district says there will be a 20-minute earlier bus ride (before school) and a 20-minute later ride (after school),” said Cunningham.
“That’s going to upset a lot of people because some parents don’t get to spend a lot of time with their kids as it is.”
Minaker believes trustees were too focused on the fact that 18 students from the Ashton Creek area already attend M.V. Beattie.
“Why do we have to pay for those parents who decided to send their kids elsewhere?” she said.
The only vote against closing the school came from Chris Coers, the Enderby area trustee.
“There were too many concerns over enrolment and finances that folks couldn’t overcome,” she said. “I’m sorry it went that way.”
Bobbi Johnson, school district chairperson, says she was considering the long-term needs of students when she voted to close the school.
“You have to look at the cost and what you have to put into it to provide a good education,” she said, adding that while there have been extra resources, that was unlikely next year because of funding.
Johnson also doesn’t support four-grad splits.
“Learning outcomes are different when you have such a broad scope (of students together).”
Johnson doesn’t believe longer bus rides will negatively impact students.
“We’re in a wide-spread district and lots of kids do that,” she said.
The district is now looking at how to help the children adjust to new surroundings in September.
“The school district will do its very best to transition students,” said Coers.